CHICAGO: The United States has a different face.
Having glimpsed the victims of Katrina, the jailers of Abu Ghraib and the failed financiers of Wall Street, the world can see the next president of the United States. He is a symbol of what America wants to be now.
After the longest and costliest election in US history, Barack Obama won a landslide – defeating his Republican opponent John McCain in the Electoral College by a margin of two-to-one.
Obama has promised enormous change for the United States and the world – withdrawal from Iraq, real dialogue with America’s enemies and better relations with its friends.
But the biggest change will be the obvious one. On January 20, an African-American will begin leading a country that first brought Africans to its shores as slaves and refused their descendents full rights until well into the 20th century; a country that was still wondering until the election results finally came in, if race would doom his candidacy.
Obama campaigned for the presidency as an outsider. Chicago, where he began his political career and claimed victory in the presidential election, is only his adopted home. He was born in Hawaii and educated in Indonesia and elsewhere in the United States.
He seemed like an outsider even at his own victory party. Thousands of people packed into a downtown park to celebrate – laughing, crying or holding each other close. Broadcaster Oprah Winfrey and Activist Jesse Jackson both had tears in their eyes.
Obama may have been the only one who wasn’t giving in to his emotions. He gave a very serious speech with a demeanor that made him seem like the only one in the crowd who wasn’t all that happy.
Even before his victory, he told journalists that he wasn’t particularly nervous about losing the election. He said that what kept him up at night were thoughts of the responsibilities that await the incoming president.
He’ll be president in just over 10 weeks. He is promising change. You can see it in his face.